Monday, 03. April 2017

Design Thinking Meets Digitalization

Pre-CeBIT Week “Digitize Nonprofits Initiative” Kick-off Workshop

In her welcome address to this year’s CeBIT tradeshow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel focused on digitalization – a subject matter that obviously affects not only businesses, but also numerous other parts of modern life. At the same event, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, for instance, introduced his vision of what he calls “Society 5.0.”

In today’s and future communities, nonprofit organizations play fundamental roles and, as a consequence, they are also affected by the opportunities and risks inherent in digitalization. In response to an initiative launched by Betterplace, Capgemini and the WHU Foundation, around 20 representatives of foundations, nonprofits and technology enterprises met on March 16, 2017 in Berlin. As part of a Design Thinking Workshop, the aim was to identify the most daunting challenges and to develop initial proposals for solutions for effective community advocacy in the digital age. In conjunction with the event, the ASE (Accelerated Solutions Environment) of Capgemini in Berlin offered an innovative and creative work environment that Capgemini generously made available as one of the components of its CRS activities.

The point of departure for the workshop content was the introduction of the latest insights gained from the study that accompanied the Google Impact Challenge (GIC), which will be published in the near future. According to the study, 97 percent of the participants interviewed are convinced that social organizations can increase their effectiveness through the deployment of digitalization. However, at the same time, 91 percent of the survey participants said that the social sector has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to digitalization. Accordingly, digitalization is almost entirely associated with marketing and PR and reduced to “tools” (primarily social media). Time, money and the lack of assigned responsibilities were cited as the most important hurdles.

The aim of the workshop was the drafting of initial education and training models for the third sector to embrace the subject matter of “digitalization” as a positive contributor and to make it usable for social purposes. To achieve this, the sector was presented – in a creative and playful way - as a “persona” that establishes an intense relationship with the target group and thus allows for the development of a better understanding of the group’s need structures and issues.   

Nicole Dufft, one of the activists behind the Digitize Nonprofits Initiative, emphasizes the power of this approach: “Just as we have experienced it on numerous occasions with WHU Design Thinking Workshops for the business world, the highly structured and simultaneously creative process opens us up for new perspectives. Each time we find it surprising how quickly this method produces tangible results.” The following challenges were identified as important factors:  

  • NGO executives have to be made aware of the opportunities inherent in and the necessity of digitalization. Their willingness to embrace change has to be amplified.
  • Digitalization will have to support social sector advocacy beyond buzzwords – in a practice-driven and pragmatic way. In other words, it has to facilitate processes, render the organizational structures more agile, improve communications and strengthen the networks.  
  • Best practice models and intense networking between NGOs are absolutely essential, as are interactions between NGOs and for profit corporations so that the potentials become tangible.  
  • Social organizations need concrete solutions that are tailored to the issues they are facing and they need support while implementing these solutions.

The ideas developed by the teams to address these challenges covered everything for the set-up of digital mobiles to festival and workshop formats to webinars and video tutorials. Subsequently, these ideas were converted into concrete prototypes with the assistance of the business model canvas approach.

The clear conclusion all participants took away with them at the end of this intense and riveting day was that a bundled program of activities and education aligned with the different needs of nonprofits will be required. Some of the attendees have already formed an action team to further develop one of the project ideas.

Dr. Peter Kreutter, the Director of the WHU foundation expressed his enthusiasm about the results: “We would be very pleased to welcome additional institutions and businesses as members of our Digitize Nonprofits Initiative with the aim of jointly identifying and pursuing the potential inherent in digitalization for the nonprofit sector.” Plans for upcoming activities have already been made. For instance, the initial results of the GIC accompanying study were once again presented at the WHU Social Entrepreneurship Conference “SensAbility” on March 23 in Vallendar. Moreover, a “The Digitalization of Education” event will be hosted on May 17, 2017 in Osnabrück in partnership with the Deutsche Stiftungsakademie in conjunction with the German Foundation Day 2017.

As part of its executive education curriculum, WHU offers its own WHU Design Thinking Program, which is open to all who want to learn more about design thinking.